A former master sergeant in the Army Band is planning to appeal after a court rejected his argument that he was forced to retire because of his conservative and Christian beliefs.
Military.com reported the Court of Federal Claims on Tuesday ruled in favor of a government motion to dismiss the case brought by Nathan Sommers, saying he voluntarily chose to retire.
In a 2014 lawsuit, Sommers claimed his unit turned on him and triggered the end of his Army career after he displayed anti-Obama bumper stickers, read a Rush Limbaugh book before performances — and served Chick-fil-A sandwiches at a party celebrating the repeal of the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy.
According to Military.com, Sommers was in the Air Force from 1988 to 1997 and joined the Army immediately after his honorable discharge. He took a position in the Army Band as a tenor soloist and was promoted to master sergeant Sept. 1, 2012.
The very next month, according to court papers, Sommers was counseled by his chain of command against political activity while in uniform, Military.com reported.
Tensions continued, and on Feb. 7, 2014, he was notified that he had a choice: accept discharge by Aug. 1; request voluntary retirement with benefits; or appeal, Military.com reported. His appeal was denied, and he retired the day before his discharge deadline.
"The issue has to do with whether or not Master Sgt. Sommers voluntarily retired," Sommers' lawyer John Wells told Military.com. "He did not accept retirement until the last day. That's no real decision; he fought it until the last minute of the last day."
Wells said he plans to take the case to the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, charging that actions against Sommers were an "obvious" attempt to target him for his views.
"It was a setup by a clique within the Army Band who disagreed with his political and religious beliefs," he said. "We watched it unfold, knew exactly what was going to happen, and it did."
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